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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Lucky Creation

Lucky Creation is a Buddhist vegetarian place with a good vibe for people who are into food. Everyone checks out other tables’ orders as they arrive to see what looks good, says fine wino. Braised bean curd with assorted vegetables hot pot is good–the tofu has a lovely, light texture inside, and the gluten and mushrooms are very flavorful, though the sauce may be a bit bland for some–it’s the kind of thing you want when you’re sick. KK’s all-time favorite here is the stir-fry of mushroom, wheat gluten, and Shanghainese greens ($8 or$9).Joel is a big fan of the pseudo-meats in the refrigerated case in the front–ranging from barbecue “pork” to “duck” to various “innards”. You can get them to take out. Again, there’s no real meat here–killing animals isn’t very Buddhist–and you also won’t find any garlic or onions in any of the dishes on the menu. A waitress once blushingly told Joel that they are too “stimulating.”

Lucky Creation Vegetarian [Chinatown]
854 Washington St., San Francisco
415-989-0818
Locater

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Lucky Creation

Around New York, Pig’s Feet High and Low

Brasserie LCB J.J. Rachou, successor to the storied La Cote Basque, stuffs pig’s feet with foie gras and apple and serves them in cider jus. guttergourmet has just one word for them: heaven.

In Jackson Heights, Mexican favorite Taqueria Coatzingo trots out delicious pig’s feet in a humbler guise, immersed in a lake of tangy, herbaceous green sauce, reports Brian S. It’s an occasional daily special, well worth watching for.

Brasserie LCB J.J. Rachou [Midtown]
formerly La Cote Basque
60 W. 55th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan
212-688-6525
Locater

Taqueria Coatzingo [Jackson Heights]
76-05 Roosevelt Ave., near 76th St., Jackson Heights, Queens
718-424-1977
Locater

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pig’s trotters

Best Spaeztle-Making Tools

Spaetzle, the small German dumplings, are made by dropping bits of egg dough directly into boiling water. There are several methods for making spaetzle, ranging from quickly cutting the dough off a wooden board with a knife to pushing it through a colander, but Chowhounds who make spaetzle regularly have two favorite tools for the job. A potato ricer, with the largest-holed disc, is easy to use–just fill the cavity with dough and push it through. Dedicated spaetzle makers look a bit like coarse flat cheese graters with a sliding hopper attached. The dough goes in the hopper, and you slide it back and forth across the holed surface, laying the whole across your pot.

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best utensil for making spaetzle

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha is a winter squash with a dense, sweet flesh. Unlike other winter squashes, its peel is edible. You can remove some or all of the peel, but you don’t need to, as once the squash is cooked, the peel is tender enough to eat.

Here are a few great ways to prepare kabocha squash:

torty likes to keep it very simple: Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, cover with parchment or wax paper and microwave until tender. Scoop out the flesh and sprinkle with a good crunchy salt to offset the sweetness.

jjb75 slices it into thin wedges and sautees it with sweet yellow onion and rosemary.

tomaneng makes a hearty, flavorful soup with kabocha that he says is delicious right away, as well as for several days as the flavors intensify over time: Wash the squash and peel off any white bumpy parts. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and cut into chunks. Place the chunks in a pot and pour in water to almost cover. Add a good amount of soy sauce (at least 1/2 cup, depending on size of squash), lots of thickly sliced fresh ginger, and if you like, one cut up onion. Bring it to a boil and simmer it until squash is tender. Take out or leave in the ginger as you like.

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kabocha- what to do?

The Apple of Your Eye

Honeycrisp apples are a cross between a Macoun and a Honey Gold. They’re advertised as “explosively crisp” and they are! Oysterspearls enthuses: “So juicy that you have to bend over as if you’re eating a ripe peach and with layers of flavor that I’ve never seen in a apple. Hints of pear and wine.” Hoagy294 found they’re good for baking, and hold their shape pretty well, but this is an apple than really shines when eaten out of hand. They don’t seem to keep as well as some varieties, so try to buy them from a grower for the best example of this apple.

Robert Lauriston recently discovered Pinova apples. He says they have great flavor, and have “an adult-oriented balance of sugar and acid”. It’s a firm apple and a good keeper when it’s kept cold.

The Opalescent is one of the excellent “antique” varieties. LindaWhit describes them as larger than the average apple, and red with a bit of yellow or green in the skin near the stem. The taste is complex: it’s initially semi-tart, with nice crisp bite, followed by sweetness. Here’s a picture.

For a sweet/tart apple, Karl S recommends Winesap or Baldwin. Good tart apples are Pippins, Granny Smiths, and Russets. For the best experience, buy apples near where they’re grown.

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The iPod of apples? All about the honeycrisp….

Anchovy Paste in a Tube

Anchovy paste is a great alternative to cans of anchovies, or those packed in salt. You can squeeze out just a smidge, and the rest will keep a long time (at least 6 months in the fridge). A little will enhance and deepen the flavor of sauces, and stews. Used this way, there’s no fishy taste. Worcester Sauce is basically a seasoned anchovy sauce, says Karl S.

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Anchovie paste in a tube

Death Warmed Over

Death Warmed Over

Casseroles are old-fashioned. So what _do_ you bring to a funeral? READ MORE

It’s Not Fat, It’s Big-Boned

It’s Not Fat, It’s Big-Boned

In honor of its 50th year, Bon Appétit muscles in with a heavy tome. READ MORE

Back-to-Back Scores in the Middle of Nowhere

Asheville, North Carolina

Ravenous from skipping supper last night, I did a double breakfast in Asheville, trying two places touted on Chowhound.com. First I hit the hippy-dippy Sunny Point Cafe (625 Haywood Road, Asheville, North Carolina; 828-252-0055).

The food was very good and hit all the right notes, though nothing was really sensational. The intensely spiced organic sausage patties you can see in the photo at 3 o’clock were the best part:

Podcast #1: Listen to a Podcastus Interruptus. MP3 file

Then on to West End Bakery (757 Haywood Road, Asheville, North Carolina; 828-252-9378), whose strawberry crumb coffeecake is absolutely killer. So light and subtle, super-moist and tender.

Podcast #2: I’m ashamed to admit I don’t remember whose muffin I’m blathering on about in this podcast (perhaps West End Bakery’s, but I tried a couple of lesser bakeries after that). I’m including it nonetheless because it documents a watershed cultural moment. MP3 file

Podcast #3: I hit an AAA office to chart a course into Tennessee. Tune in on the deliberations as I wildly unfurl maps. MP3 file

Travel tip for Auto Club members: Get local maps and info from local clubs after you arrive. They always have a selection that’s unavailable in distant offices.

Sylva, North Carolina

The Anatomy of a Find

Podcast #4: Hear the precise moment of the olfactory discovery of magnificent Robbie’s Char-Burger (1461 East Main Street, Sylva, North Carolina; 828-586-3490). MP3 file

Podcast #5: Listen to the postgame report (MP3 file). Sound quality is poor because I was too numb with happiness to work the recorder controls properly. Listening now, a few hours after, I think I failed to convey how great the burgers were. Thank heaven for photographs, which I think you’ll find pretty persuasive (Caution: not safe for work!):

As foreshadowed in the preceding podcast, I had no time to digest my blessed charburger before my attention was wrenched by Heinzelmännchen Brewery (545 Mill Street, Sylva, North Carolina; 828-631-4466) as I passed its little storefront in Sylva. Brewmaster Dieter Kuhn, born and raised in Heidelsheim, Germany, makes staunchly personal, defiantly German-style beers—soft, rounded, subtle brews in contrast to the intense bitterness and flashy flavorings of much American craft beer. I’ve quaffed most of America’s best lagers and ales, and Dieter is one of our best undiscovered brewers. What a stroke of luck to find him. He also makes fantastic root beer and birch beer.

Here’s a list of venues serving Heinzelmännchen products it’s probably most fun to drop into the brewery and have Dieter pour you a growler!

Heinzelmännchen are gnomelike creatures found in the Black Forest of Germany (hence their URL of yourgnometownbrewery.com), so there are gnomes everywhere:

This article tells more about Heinzelmännchen Brewery (as well as Asheville’s Highland Brewing Company).

I really dug Sylva. I’m dying to hang out there sometime, drink Dieter’s beer, eat Robbie’s charburgers, and go kayaking and hiking. Travelers hoping to visit Asheville ought to head here—an hour west but a world away.

Dillsboro, North Carolina

Not far west of Sylva, I gave Dillsboro Smokehouse (403 Haywood Street, Dillsboro, North Carolina; 828-586-9556) a quick try.

Their barbecue is pretty good, though not up to some of the praise in press reviews taped to their front window. Their no-nonsense style is the polar extreme of the postmodern ‘cue at 12 Bones (installment #21), so it’s good to have both to extrapolate from. Note that this is border ‘cue, featuring barbecue baby back ribs and referring to chopped pork (elsewhere in North Carolina called simply “barbecue”) as Bar-B-Que Pork.

Nantahala River Gorge, North Carolina

I’m not usually one to prefer ambiance to deliciousness, but I spotted Pizza by the River in the Nantahala River Gorge near the Tennessee border, and stopped to buy a soda (even serendipity couldn’t possibly deliver tasty slices in a place like this) and snap a couple of photos of the view from the back ledge. Could this be America’s most scenic pizzeria? It was like a dream, and I kick myself for not getting a better exterior shot (I was rushing to get out of the gorge by sundown).

Adjacent is Roper’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q, which was, alas, closed. Both are right near Paddle Inn (14611 U.S. 19 West, Bryson City, North Carolina; 800-711-RAFT), one of myriad whitewater-rafting businesses between here and Chattanooga.

Speaking of water sports, Endless River Adventures seems to offer the widest range of kayaking/canoeing/rafting activities in the area, and they say that they “offer one of the longest paddling seasons in the country on a wide variety of spectacular rivers.”

Kudzu

This stuff’s taking over the South like—well, kudzu. The vine transforms everything in its path (trees, poles, power lines) into topiary. It’s shocking to see avalanches of kudzu flowing down a hill, devouring everything—even a couple of vehicles, poised to soon be lost under a sea of green:

Not to end on a terrifying note, here are some happy-looking horses I saw wandering around freely near the road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Knishes KO’d

Vendy Award winners aside, ask any midtown office worker about the general quality of corner-cart chow in New York City and you’ll get, at best, a shrug; at worst, a diatribe. According to David Katz in the Jewish Quarterly, though, the worst street-cart offender isn’t the stale, salty pretzel or the waterlogged hot dog but the mass-produced knish,

incarnated as a flat square, factory-fried and frozen, to be steamed back to life and then lacquered with a coating of shiny French’s Golden Mustard. There’s a word for these street knishes, which are still sold today, and that word is vile.

Katz’s article goes on to laud the rounded, fist-sized baked knishes of Yonah Schimmel’s, served up via dumbwaiter in a nearly century-old hole in the wall on Houston Street. Once surrounded by the small Jewish-owned businesses of the Lower East Side, now incongruously lodged between a Howard Johnson Express Hotel and the hip Sunshine Cinema, Yonah Schimmel’s is heavy on the pushcart-era charm (a charm that consists mostly of having stayed exactly the same for decades on end), but does authentic always mean tasty? Nope, say the wags over at New York magazine’s Grub Street, “Truth be told, the knishes at Yonah Schimmel’s are as bland as cotton and heavy as depleted uranium.”

Instead, they advise a subway ride out to Queens for the “flaky and delicate” knishes dished out at the newly expanded Knish Nosh, or to Brooklyn for the “unexpected sweetness” of the kasha version at Glatt Zone in Midwood.

Is a knish throwdown in the works? Be careful—those things could hurt somebody.